I ran into this fairly recent (Januari 2023) book which aims to update the readers about the current state of research into the Picts.
The authors begin with a broad stroke history of the research and the Picts themselves. This opening chapter is the most interesting of the book. In the last decades the knowledge about the Picts increased exponentially. There have been many findings. Older findings can now sometimes be (better) ascribed to the Picts. There are new methods of dating and new methods of finding spots. The authors mostly take you along the new information, but also say a thing or two about the new methods of research.
The following chapters are more specific subjects. Everyday life. Elite life. From paganism to Christendom. Funerary customs. The symbols. The end of the Pictish civilization.
To start with the latter. For five centuries the Picts have ruled (large parts of) what is now Scotland. It is not that the Picts were a homogeneous civilization though. There were different tribes, different overmen, even different languages. For a short while there was a larger Pictish kingdom. The Picts managed to keep the Romans at bay, but there were major influences from the Gauls from the South and the Vikings from the North. It seems that “Pictland” had been largely “Gaulisized” before the influx from the North started. In the end all (new) civilizations appear to have merged together. Also the influence of Christianity seems to have been larger and longer than earlier concluded.
As the book continues you will learn a thing or two about the way the Picts built their houses, forts, cemeteries, etc. A bit about Pictish society and a wee bit about their pagan and Christian believes. When it comes to the symbols, the best conclusion that the authors can distill from all that has been written before, is that they refer to names and in possible extension, rank and descent. The symbols disappeared together with the Pictish language, so the somewhat disappointing conclusion is that they represent some sort of writing.
Many questions are unanswered and many sites have to be investigated further. Finally the research into the Picts is making serious progress, but there is still a long way to go. In this book you get an update about where the researches stand today. The book is fairly dry, but not too academic.
2023 Birlinn, isbn 1780277784